Talk of the Town
Contractor caught taking water
Man takes video of company at tank meant for town’s residents
An out-of-town contractor was caught in the act of using a community water tank to fill a 200l drum and other smaller containers with water to mix concrete for a job at the Port Alfred truck stop last Friday.
The tanks, placed at strategic locations around town last year, were intended for residential use as water cuts had led to some parts of town being without water for weeks.
The Port Elizabeth-based company which took the water, RA Signs and Graphics, has since apologised for the “misunderstanding”.
Resident Raoul Coetzee spotted an RA Signs bakkie at the water tank at the corner of High and Bathurst streets on the east bank, approached them and took a video.
In a conversation with a man who appeared to be the foreman, Coetzee told him the water was intended for residents and they were taking more than 200l.
“Let’s make them famous,” Coetzee said, and posted the video to Talk of the Town’s Facebook page.
It received many responses from residents who expressed outrage over the water abuse.
Shortly thereafter, while in the industrial area, TotT saw what appeared to be the same RA Signs bakkie loaded with a blue drum pull up at the truck stop, where the water was used to mix concrete.
Since Ndlambe Municipality installed water tanks on the east and west bank in late November last year, there have been sporadic reports of contractors at building sites abusing the tanks for construction work.
Residents complained that a tank on the corner of Weald and Southdowns Avenue was repeatedly being used by builders, and the incident was reported by the Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association.
However, the RA Signs incident was the first time a contractor was caught on camera.
TotT alerted the municipality to the incident last Friday and asked what would be done to stop such abuse.
TotT also contacted RA Signs, and one of the company’s managing members, Belinda Gibson, forwarded a letter she had sent to infrastructure director Noluthando Vithi and her deputy Onke Sopela in response to their queries.
Gibson said a team from RA Signs had come to Port Alfred to do work at the ROPAX Truck Stop site, which consisted of mixing and casting concrete.
“On arrival we were informed there was no water on site, but that the site operator had made arrangements for water to be delivered.
“After 12 midday, we became concerned of the remaining time and needed to find another source,” she said.
“When asking locals about the location of a river or stream, our team were told that they could get water from a water tank, and were given directions.
“While the team were in the process of filling a container a man approached them, not asking them what they are doing or who gave them permission, but instead recorded them and going on record that we were stealing water.”
Gibson said their 200l blue plastic drum was only about half full at the time of being approached, and they had immediately stopped filling it.
“There are no signs posted in the vicinity that prescribe the intended use of the water – and we were being guided by the locals,” she said.
She said a resident named Danielle had called their office about the water issue at about the same time, and they in turn had phoned the crew on site to confirm that they had stopped using the water.
“I have confirmed with the driver, Martin Erasmus, that this was the only time the team took water from this tank,” she said.
“We would therefore like to formally apologise for this misunderstanding and as a token of good faith, offer to supply a sign that you can have installed on site to inform people about the restricted use of the water tank.”
Municipal spokesperson Cecil Mbolekwa also eventually responded and repeated what Gibson had said.